Four seasons in a row the Boston Bruins have been a steady presence in the NHL playoffs. To ensure their perfect attendance remains intact, General Manager Don Sweeney has sacrificed a healthy chunk of his teams short-term draft capital come deadline day since taking the helm. Notable examples include a sixth round pick to Winnipeg for Drew Safford, a first and seventh to the Rangers for Rick Nash, a second and fourth round pick to New Jersey for Marcus Johansson, a fifth round pick and Ryan Donato to Minnesota for Charlie Coyle, and most infamously a first round pick to Anaheim for Ondrej Kase this past season.
Lets consider the latter a necessary evil to relieve Boston of David Backes’ albatross of a contract, as of now it remains a heavy price to pay with rather lackluster returns in the short coming. Drew Stafford was a low risk high reward scoring option for a Bruins team trying desperately not to miss the playoffs for a third straight year, lets just say you get what you pay for. Rick Nash was supposed to be your ace in the hole against Toronto and Tampa but was marred by concussion issues. Finally Johansson and Coyle got you one victory away from a Stanley Cup, making this list very mixed bag indeed.
There’s not a fleecing to be accounted for as the jury is still out on whether or not the sacrificed capital will develop into full time NHL talent. Which begs the question, how have the Bruins faired with their leftover draft picks?
Well it depends on who you speak to.
Anders Bjork selected by Peter Chiarelli in 2014 and 2018 undrafted free agent Karson Kuhlman make up the most NHL ready prospects in the pool despite their gradual induction into full time NHL minutes. More recent draft selections such as Jack Studnicka, Trent Fredrick, Jakub Lauko and Urho Vaakanainen have all enjoyed short stints with the Bruins but failed to maintain their roster spot as well. Jake DeBrusk, a first round pick in 2015, along with 2016 first round pick Charlie McAvoy and Brandon Carlo a 2nd round in 2015, leap-off Don Sweeney’s draft page albeit with just five years of material to work with.
According to The Hockey Writers, Boston currently ranks 26th of 31 in their September 2020 dissection of every NHL prospect pool. Par for the course to remain in the spotlight of relevancy. Boston has relied heavily on the contributions of its surprisingly intact 2011 championship team allowing for their young talent to develop a luxury not often enjoyed in the modern day NHL. But how much longer can that aging core be leaned on?
Torey Krug’s departure on night one of NHL free agency slightly lowered Boston’s championship window from its upright position. Over the years it has been well documented if you want to play in Boston you will likely need to settle for the hometown discount. Whether Krug was willing or Sweeney was entirely disinterested we may never know, but it felt like a domino had fallen.
Lest we forget the Bruins captain, Zdeno Chara, is currently without a contract for the 2020-21 season – a particularly eyebrow-raising fact. Not to twist the knife but in one years time Tuukka Rask and David Krejci will be unrestricted free agents awarded the same liberties as Krug to explore options for employment. You must consider if Sweeney and company scoffed at offering a seven year deal to their 29 year old power play quarterback, then a 35-year-old Krejci and 34-year-old Rask certainly suffer a similar fate, especially in an expansion draft year. Boston could be a much different team in just one calendar year.
Fortunately the likes of Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron, David Pastrnak, Charlie McAvoy, Matt Grzelcyk, Charlie Coyle, and Brandon Carlo will ensure Boston to be a far cry from a dumpster diver in the eastern conference, despite its ho-hum prospect pool.
Not to forecast the demise of the Boston Bruins but its core has aged considerably in the last nine years since being crowned champions. Admittedly there has been no shortage of highlight moments in the interim, but a general lack of young flash is worrisome in the long run. Don Sweeney nailed the DeBrusk and McAvoy picks with the common denominator being they were both first round selections, and its hard as of now to tell how forfeiting their 2018 and 2020 first round picks will hurt them down the road. But that’s the price you pay to compete.
Boston’s brass will be faced with difficult decisions to make when the league returns to play. Do you give it one more shot? Or do you plan for the future?